Retailers, Polish Up Those Subject Lines

October 11, 2018

Half of US consumers prefer hearing from retailers by email than via social media, text, display ads or mobile apps, according to a survey report from Yes Lifecycle Marketing [download page]. However, the study indicates that the vast majority ignore at least some emails from retailers.

The survey asked more than 1,000 US consumers who have made a purchase online with retailer in the past year why they remain subscribed to retailer emails that they don’t read. (Just 1 in 7 said that they unsubscribe from the emails they don’t read.)

The leading reason given is that recipients scan the subject line to see which emails they want to open (42%). This beat out other reasons including wanting to get free stuff on anniversaries and birthdays, and factors preventing them from unsubscribing (such as being too busy or not finding the unsubscribe button).

Together, these findings suggest that consumers have a large volume of retailer emails in their inboxes, and are scanning subject lines to decide which ones to open.

The importance of a good subject line is brought further to light by separate results from the report. On average, 55% of respondents ignore emails from retailers because they get too many of them. This is a particularly sensitive issue among Centennials / Gen Z respondents, two-thirds (68%) of whom ignore retail emails for this reason.

A subject line could stand out if it presented a relevant offer or recommendation. Half of the respondents reported ignoring emails from retailers due to irrelevant product recommendations, with this a slightly larger issue for Baby Boomers than Millennials.

In fact, almost two-thirds of respondents have received some form of inadequately personalized communication from retailers, according to the report. The most common is a recommendation for a product that the recipient is not interesting in or hasn’t browsed or purchased in the past. A sizable proportion also point to retailers advertising product they’ve already purchased.

The importance of a good product recommendation was emphasized by Monetate in a recent study of online shopping behavior. Monetate found in its analysis that product recommendations that don’t generate any engagement from a site visitor may as well not exist – as they don’t have any real impact. But the right recommendations result in significant boosts to purchase rates, average order values and even return session purchase rates.

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